I had a feeling of deja vu as I picked my bike up off the dirt; so close to the lead once again, only to show a lack of patience and nearly throw my whole race away. But as I lifted my machine from the floor, I felt a swell of ego and determination; I wasn’t going to let it happen again, I wasn’t going to let myself be beat, and so I set off after the leaders once more.
The sting of crashing multiple times at Sand Hollow while either holding or battling for the lead- along with some lingering soreness- was still fresh in my memory as I lined up for the pro race at the sixth round of the WORCS series in Cedar City, Utah. I wanted to get back to winning ways and I felt the terrain at Cedar City would give me the perfect platform to do so as the somewhat fast and flowing course suited my skill set. Mother nature also has her say in the conditions as periodic rains throughout the weekend left the dirt with a practically perfect amount of moisture, aside from a few slimy spots on the motocross courses.
I wanted to get out front early, not have to deal with roost from other bikes through any of the muddier spots, and focused on tracking perfectly off of the cement-starting pad. As the gate dropped, I remained calm with the throttle, practically rolling off the line, and was nearly level with Travis Coy and Gary Sutherlin as we raced down the start straight for the holeshot. Gary had a slightly better drive than the two of us and took control of the first corner as Travis, who was to my inside, broke just later than I did and took second spot.
The second corner was quite a sloppy mess of fluffy mud and as Gary and Travis drifted slightly wide into the deeper muck, I crept around the inside, passing Coy as he bogged down slightly, and pulled right up to the back of Sutherlin. I settled in behind Gary for the first couple laps as we got the feel for the course, where we needed to creep through the mud and where we could push it, and as we started the third lap I could see that I had the pace to lead, but it would require getting close to Gary and eating the muddy roost in an effort to set him up.
Through a fast and flowing section of course I was able to close the distance and began to apply some pressure as I looked for an opportunity to make the pass. As the course widened down a third-gear straightaway, Gary swung wide to the right in an effort to round the following left-handed corner and I took the invitation to run it in deep down the inside. I pulled along side Gary just as we started to apply the brakes and tried my best to force him to check up slightly, as I knew he would square me up upon exiting the corner, but I wasn’t able to force him to slow enough and he accelerated back by to maintain the lead.
I was getting frustrated, and impatient, as I was tired of eating roost, and not long after my failed attempt at overtaking the lead, the course turned onto a narrow, somewhat rocky, fourth-gear straightaway. Not far down the straightaway I knew our lines would diverge for a few hundred feet and I felt I had a bit faster line choice, but I would have to seriously commit to the pass as there were loose rocks and trees just off the side of the main line on either side of the track. This is where my impatience got the best of me as I lost any sense of self-preservation, focusing solely on forcing my way into the lead.
Our lines split, Gary choosing right and myself taking a line to the left, and I closed the distance to Gary. We were nearly side-by-side as our lines merged, but unfortunately for me I was just a wheel-length behind and Gary had control of the main line. I should have backed out of it here, shown some restraint and mounted a charge again later, but I wanted the lead so badly I just held the throttle on, unconcerned about the approaching rocks and trees in my line. I finally realized the brashness of my decision, but it was well too late and I clipped two softball-sized rocks that sent me tumbling to the ground.
I remounted my bike, firstly fearing that my reckless decision may have imparted unsalvageable damage upon my bike, but once I felt that my machine was still straight and fully functional, I felt a swell of determination: I couldn’t let this be my story today, I was going to come back and win.
For the next lap and a half I feel I was riding a bit too much in anger, riding slightly haphazardly, making a few mistakes, and lost time to the leaders after deciding to come in for an early pit stop for gas and goggles. Once I calmed myself down and refocused my aggression into carrying speed and flowing around the course, I began making ground on Gary and Eric Yorba- who had passed me during my crash. I caught right up to the back of Eric as the fifth lap of the race came to a close and was able to make the pass as he dove into the pits for gas. Gary had also pitted that lap, and as we took to the motocross track I could see him just a few seconds up the course.
Over the next lap I continued to close the distance on Gary, pulling right up to the back of him as we left the motocross course on lap seven, and a few corners into the off road section I began to look for a way by. The course turned up a small hill, into a tight right-handed U-turn before heading back down into a left-handed ninety-degree turn and I was right behind Gary as we rolled through the right-hander. Gary set up a bit narrow for the following ninety-left and I swung wide to carry more speed. I hit the berm just behind Gary and was able to accelerate past him as I squared back up to his left side, controlling the following straightaway. I knew Gary was going to fight back so I rode a little ragged as I pushed through the following corners in an effort to keep the lead, and a few straightaways later I felt that I had opened up the slightest gap.
I continued to push the pace, and as the white flag came out at the close of that lap I had succeeded in opening up a somewhat comfortable lead, which afforded me the luxury of backing down slightly to a more comfortable pace on the final lap. I was able to maintain the gap and achieve my goal of getting back on the top step of the box in the WORCS series as I crossed the checkered flag to take the win.
This win felt great, as I was able to overcome a bit of adversity, but I’m not completely satisfied with my performance because of the impatience I showed and the rash decision making that led to my fall; I need to iron out those mistakes, but in the meantime it does make for some exciting GoPro footage.
I’d like to thank everyone who helps and supports me: Precision Concepts, MSR, Shoei, Sidi, Spy, EVS, USWE, Focus apparel, FMF, BRP, RAD custom graphics, GoPro, A’ME grips, IWC motorsports, ATP mechanix, Northland motorsports, Rekluse, CryoHeat, the MotoXerciser, my mechanic Phil, my wife Katie (professional goggle holder), my dad, John for helping in the pits, all of the team supporters and thank you to my fans for the continued support.
Now I get a couple months off during the summer, time to relax and let the body recover for the final push through late summer and fall. I do need to get out and do some trail riding to get ready for the tighter single-track trails that the next round of WORCS, at Straddeline, WA, will offer. Anyone who watched my GoPro footage from last year’s event in Straddeline can attest that I need to learn how to avoid those pesky trees that seem to have a knack for jumping in front of my line.